Understanding Your Rights When Approached by Law Enforcement
Talking to police can be nerve-wracking. Whether you have been pulled over for a vehicle violation or are being investigated, it might feel like you’re being treated as guilty before ever stepping foot in a courtroom.
When a police officer approaches you, it is important to know your rights and to exercise them. Saying too much, trying to lie, or refusing to cooperate can all lead to police giving you additional criminal charges.
At Maverick Ray & Associates, we represent people who have been arrested for crimes in Houston and throughout the State of Texas. Our aggressive and passionate approach to defense has led to numerous Not Guilty verdicts and dismissals.
If you are arrested for a crime, you need a lawyer that will fight for you. Call our office at (281) 346-9451 for a free consultation.
Here is the Dopest Lawyer’s advice about how to handle interacting with police:
1. Ask for a Lawyer
If you are pulled over or stopped by police, immediately tell them that you would like to speak to a lawyer. Do not say or sign anything before speaking to an attorney. You have the right to legal representation. Do not give up this right or say something that could make you look guilty. Get an attorney as soon as possible.
2. Remain Silent
Use Your Right to Remain Silent
The biggest mistake most people make is assuming that they need to talk with the police. You have the right to remain silent and you should do so.
Don’t Answer Questions
Be respectful, but do not answer the police’s questions. If you have not been arrested yet, you do not have to answer questions about where you have been, how much you have had to drink, or any other questions. However, if you are lawfully arrested, then you are required to give your name, address, and date of birth if an officer requests it (see Failure to Identify statute).
You Can Refuse, But You Can’t Lie
You may refuse to give your information, but you may not lie about anything. It is illegal to give an officer a fake name, address, or date of birth if you have been lawfully arrested, detained, or questioned as a witness of a crime.
3. You Do Not Have to Agree to a Search
No Search Warrant for Your Home? You Can Say “No”
If an officer wants to search your home, ask them to show you a search warrant. Usually, officers cannot legally search a private dwelling without a warrant.
However, if you give the officers permission to search your home, then they don’t need a warrant. Be careful about giving permission!
Lastly, the police can legally search your home if you have already been arrested or detained.
When Can an Officer Search My Car?
If an officer pulls you over and asks to search your vehicle, you may say “no.” Be aware that the officer might respect your wishes, but he or she might continue with a search anyway.
If the police officer searches even after you said “no,” remember to keep your cool. Do not do anything that could be seen as threatening or getting in the officer’s way, as this might put you in danger. Remain calm and ask for an attorney.
An officer may legally search your car without your permission if:
- They have a warrant
- They have probable cause to believe that the car contains evidence of a crime
- The vehicle has been impounded
- You have been arrested and the search relates to the arrest
- It is necessary for their protection, i.e., they reasonably believe there is a weapon in the vehicle.
A criminal defense lawyer can help defend your rights if an officer conducted a search improperly or without legal reason. If the officer found anything in your car that could be used as evidence against you, that evidence might not count against you if the officer’s search was illegal.
4. You Have the Right to Pull Over in a Safe Area
Pull Over Safely
If an officer tries to pull you over, you have the right to stop in a safe, well-lit area. You should never have to stop in an area that is dangerous.
The Texas Department of Public Safety recommends that if the immediate area is unsafe, you:
- Turn on your hazard lights
- Drive carefully and slowly below the posted speed limit
- Find a nearby well-lighted populated place to stop
Protect Yourself When Pulled Over
You can also call 9-1-1 to verify the identity of the officer. Once stopped, it is critical not to exit the vehicle unless you are told to by the officer. Do not reach for anything that could be mistaken for a weapon.
5. You Can Ask If You Are Free to Leave
If you are being questioned by the police, but have not been arrested, you may always ask the officer if you are free to leave. An officer cannot simply hold you indefinitely. They must have “probable cause” to place you under arrest. If the officer says you are free to leave, remain calm and walk or drive away.
6. Do Not Resist, Lie, or Attempt to Obstruct
When in doubt, remain silent. Do not resist, lie, or attempt to obstruct an officer’s investigation. Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer does not let you go, ask for an attorney. What you say can and will be used against you.
7. Take Pictures or Video
Smart phones allow everyday citizens to hold law enforcement accountable during investigations and arrests. It is your right to take pictures or videos from a public space. You can use your cell phone to take photos or video of anything that is in plain view where no one expects to have privacy, e.g. on the road, at a public venue, at a park, etc.
An officer cannot take your cell phone or recording device, demand to see the photos or videos, or destroy or delete photos or videos.
An officer cannot use intimidation or force to get you to stop filming. However, an officer can ask you or order you to stop taking pictures or videoing them if they think you are interfering with their investigation or other operations.
Arrested in Houston? We Can Help.
If you have been arrested or are under investigation in Houston, contact our office immediately. At Maverick Ray & Associates, we will provide you with a strategic legal defense that could help get your charges reduced or dismissed.
We are experienced trial lawyers that know how prosecutors operate. If a favorable outcome cannot be reached in negotiations before trial, we will take your case to a jury. When your freedom and your reputation are on the line, you need a legal team that will go to war for you. Call (281) 346-9451 to get started. Get the representation you need now.
Read More: ACLU: Stopped by Police